Review: Sonic Runners (Apple iOS)

It has been some time since I played a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Years of disappointment and lackluster releases kept me away from the series. However, this year SEGA released Sonic Runners on the iOS and Android around Sonic the Hedgehog’s 24th birthday and my recent reading of the book Console Wars made me interested so I went ahead and download the game from the Apple Store (no harm since the game is free-to-play).

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The game actually moves at a fast pace and is a side-scroller. Side-scrolling was a powerful game genre all on its own during the arcade and 16-bit era of video games and prior. The game includes tons of Sonic’s pals, but doesn’t force you to play with them, although the buddies do become necessary in later parts of the story due to their difficulty.

Difficulty is the main problem with Sonic Runners. The game has cheap mechanics that kill you as you advance in the endless side-scrolling game. The only real way around it is to either power-up like crazy or to pay for red coins that will allow you to revive yourself when you die. In the later levels, death is almost guaranteed due to walls and pits being placed exactly after you speed up, leaving you no option but to die. You may find yourself screaming at your cell phone from frustration. Being forced to die also removes that sense of accomplishment a player normally feels at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog whenever they reach the end of a zone.

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Another issue is just how repetitive the stages get. There needs to be more enemy variety and also more differences in the boss battles to make the game interesting enough long-term, otherwise I cannot imagine anyone playing this game past a few weeks at the most. Sonic Runners feels like classic Sonic games, but lacks the depth of those lava, desert, water, and space levels that made those Sonic games truly memorable.

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Boss battles with Eggman get increasingly boring as you progress through the game. Eggman has simple attacks and no real edge, which is surprising considering Eggman is a genius who should have some pretty sick attacks and vehicles to attack Sonic with. Even ripping the Eggman machines from the early Sonic games would be enough to provide players a challenge.

I have clocked plenty of hours with the game and the music is interesting at first and then becomes mind-numbing because of how often you have to replay stages in the later parts of the story to get to the main boss. SEGA could easily solve this problem by releasing extra sound tracks as unlockable features, I know I’d love to put some classic Sonic music on my game or even new Sonic music.

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Perhaps it is just the Sonic fan in me, but the add-ons for Sonic’s birthday are the real draw to Sonic Runners at the moment. The music in the special stage helps break up the monotony. I have spent hours trying to unlock Classic Sonic and players only have until July 10th, 2015 at 8:59AM (UTC) to unlock him as a character.

I enjoy unlimited data with T-Mobile and have a strong Wi-Fi connection pretty much everywhere I go, but I know others have complained about the need of a data connection to use Sonic Runners. I can imagine that being a problem for many people who lack data plans or have crappy internet connections. Some players seem to be having technically difficulties with Sonic Runners at the moment, however I used an Apple iPhone 6 with iOS8 and experienced no issues playing Sonic Runners.

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Overall, Sonic Runners for Apple iOS is not for everyone, but certainly worth checking out…especially since it’s free to download. It certainly has some room to improve though, but is not quite as bad as some other free-to-play games that I have played in the past.

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Download Sonic Runners on Apple iOS: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/sonic-runners/id953019873

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Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Updates – 6/27

Mr. Yu Suzuki held a Twitch broadcast on Friday 6/26 to answer some of fans questions of the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter. However, the Twitch stream was badly managed and had a number of issues ranging from audio problems to simply looking rushed. Personally, the number of questions discussed that had already been answered in the Reddit AMA and Kickstarter FAQ was infuriating.

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Credit: ElTorro on NeoGAF

This led fans to start talking more about Awesome Japan – the group managing the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter. They looked unprofessional on-screen and there was particular guy on the right there who seemed off. You can read the responses to the Twitch thread on NeoGAF and Shenmue Dojo.

Watch and cringe for yourself:

Taking a look closer at Awesome Japan

A recent podcast called Best Video Game Podcast analyzed the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter before the Twitch stream went live and actually discussed the overall lack of experience that Awesome Japan has with Kickstarters and why that is a problem for a game like Shenmue 3.

The company has only been managing Kickstarter campaigns since 2014 and here are some other facts pulled from the podcast:

  • Awesome Japan has helped 13 Kickstarters prior to this (in a span of 11 months), only 7 were successful
  • Only 1 video game Kickstarter is in Awesome Japan’s portfolio called Soul Knights (ex Nippon Ichi staff), barely met the goal of $60k with only 246 backers
  • Only 1550 backers and $170k for all of Awesome Japan’s campaigns combined so far
  • Awesome Japan had no native English speaker before this Kickstarter apparently. All of their previous campaigns had significant spelling and translation mistakes (If you watched the stream last night it was obvious the translator was having difficulties).

On the bright side, the Kickstarter seemed to temporarily benefit from the announcement of new stretch goals during the Twitch stream and doubled its daily funding. The actual number of backers is moving slowly so who knows how long this will be able to continue.

Personally, I would rather see Yu Suzuki play Shenmue on Twitch to drum up support. Or really anything besides what I saw last night.

Yu Suzuki Statement on Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Funding

There have been many questions concerning Shenmue 3’s budget and what outside sources will be added to the money collected through Kickstarter. I apologize for not having been more forthright in this area and would like to take this opportunity to help clarify the situation.

Ys Net and I have been putting in many long years trying to find a way to bring back a sequel that so many fans have waited so long for. After learning of Kickstarter, I knew it would be possible to get Shenmue 3 started. Wanting to make the best game possible, I also knew that I would have to look to more traditional means to obtain all the funds that would be needed to create the game I had envisioned.

Sony and Shibuya Productions have been wonderful partners because they believe in Shenmue and want to see the best for the fans and the game. Their investment in (and support of) Shenmue have helped to realize a sequel that will stand proud with its predecessors. While it is not business practice to discuss the specific details of such arrangements, I can say that with their assistance on the production and marketing end, and in Sony’s case with some publishing support as well, Ys Net is able to use more of the money we collect through Kickstarter purely for Shenmue 3’s development. It is also important to note that your funds are going strictly to Ys Net for development of Shenmue 3 – Sony and Shibuya Productions are not seeing a cent of your Kickstarter dollars.

The outpouring of support from all of you, the backers, has been so inspirational. I cannot thank you enough. Having reached our funding goal, I am excited to say that the Shenmue story will go on, and our journey with Ryo and Shenhua will continue. Fans will be able to enjoy the sequel they have waited so long for, and newcomers to the series will be introduced to a unique gaming experience.

Of course, like with any Kickstarter, additional funding will only help us make a better game. On top of everything Shenmue 3 will already bring, the Stretch Goals that I have laid out will add extra quests, events, and new gameplay systems that will make the game even more immersive and take the series to the next level. At the $5 million mark, there will be an all new gameplay feature I would be excited to be able to add to the Shenmue legacy. If we should make the $10 million Stretch Goal, a much larger, completely open world will be yours to explore.

Even if these Stretch Goals are not reached, Shenmue 3 will already be a sequel true to its name, and one we can all be proud of. It is my hope though, that together we can make this Shenmue just as revolutionary as the first two were.

I understand this statement may by late in coming. Going forward, we wish to be as open as possible concerning the game’s development. I would like to again ask for your cooperation and support in helping make Shenmue 3 the best that it can be.

Sincerely, Yu Suzuki

Source: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ysnet/shenmue-3/posts/1273833

Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Updates – 6/22

So…what’s new with the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter?

FireShot Capture - Shenmue 3 by Ys Net — Kic_ - https___www.kickstarter.com_projects_ysnet_shenmue-3

Many articles were released today expanding on articles made last week (or corrections as I like to call them) and there was also quite a bit of new threads on the interwebs as well as videos uploaded. The Kickstarter has slowed down and is hanging at around $3.5 million dollars, although many people say this is normal for a Kickstarter after the first few days – there is no way to know for sure how much damage the negative publicity did for the campaign, all we can do is look forward.

A bunch of media outlets started reporting today that an XBOX One version of Shenmue may be in reach, although the possibility has been stated on the Kickstarter FAQ for some time and the media was probably too busy falsely discussing how Sony was slathering the Shenmue Kickstarter with tons of cash and telling people to quit the Kickstarter to notice.

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The Shenmue original voice actors have come out in support of the Kickstarter – who knows how this may help the campaign, but it is certainly a great thing and shows the strong presence of Shenmue’s fan community.

4Gamer published an interview with Yu Suzuki that has been translated on Shenmue Dojo. It focuses on the Character Perspective System and new stretch goals.

Here is what I have found interesting in the new selection of articles:

Jim Sterling released a video about Shenmue 3 – The Good, The Bad, and the Iffy. He is fairly neutral and does not resort to bashing the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter, though clearly like most people he is getting a little annoyed at the confusing Kickstarter campaign and like many he is worried about the effect the Kickstarter may have on the game industry overall which is echoed in most online outlets, although that is of course unavoidable. Best summarized by “What the fuck”.

Here are some Twitch users who have been streaming Shenmue in support of the Kickstarter – subscribe to their channels to get updates when they stream:

If you missed the Yu Suzuki Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit you can read it all on Sega Nerds.

Check out this video for music from the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter:

For the latest from the Shenmue Fans join the Shenmue 500K group on Facebook.

Finally don’t forget to back Shenmue 3 on Kickstarter!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ysnet/shenmue-3

What I’m playing 3/22

First off, I think everyone should read these two interviews on Hardcore Gaming 101 on two Metal Gear Solid translators: Jeremy Blaustein and Agness Kaku. Both shed some light on the translation roles in the gaming industry and how sometimes they are unappreciated. I was really surprised to read that Kaku was paid less than $5,000 for the translation of Metal Gear Solid 2 and never had any access to the staff or development team considering how much a huge blockbuster game MGS2 was after the success of the original. Personally, I am a huge fan of the translation done by Blaustein and his translation is far superior to that of the Twin Snakes in my opinion.

I have been plowing through some video games lately. I beat Super Mario 64 DS the other day. Although I enjoyed the addition of new characters, it was frustrating to have Mario stripped of all his powers and the controls of the game were quite frustrating. Many of the levels that I died in would have been easily avoided if I had a Nintendo 64 controller during the sequence and it really makes you realize how Super Mario 64 was perfectly tied to the Nintendo 64 controller and just is not the same on any other system. Nintendo really took lots of thought on how to make the game fully utilize the N64 and it just does not work the same when ported to the DS.

Now I have started playing Sonic Colors lately on the DS. The game certainly gives you the feeling of speed you want from a Sonic game, although sometimes I find myself completely losing track of where Sonic is on the screen because he is moving so fast. I think it is certainly one of the better Sonic games that I have played in recent years. I want to pickup Sonic Generations and Sonic 4: Episode 1 in the near future to compare how those games add up. They looked promising to me.

Another Sonic game I have been messing around with lately is Sonic Adventure 2. I realized the other day that I never beat it on the Dreamcast. I decided to go back and boot up the old Dreamcast and give the rest of the game another run. I came back to the point where I left off and realized why I quit. There is this part in level 15 where Sonic has to kill some enemies over a pool of poison and then  light speed dash to collect some rings. For some reason it always malfunctioned and I miserably fell to my death hundreds of times before finally making it past the pool.

Any old Sonic player can attest to the series unforgiving difficulty in past games, which was missing in Sonic Adventure (many people apparently complained about this). Sega came back around and made the sequel unbelievably unforgiving. Especially in the space levels (pictured above) where one wrong landing  can send you falling to your doom – and eventually lead to you restarting the level completely. My palms were pouring sweat during these space and various other grinding stages. The camera angles are also quite awful and often turns at the wrong time and leaves you dead. I have heard this is worse in the new Sonic the Hedgehog games…but have yet to touch them.

One thing I would have really liked in Sonic Adventure 2 was the areas like Station Square and the Mystic Ruins. I thought those locations added more to the story of the predecessor and the sequels story doesn’t captivate the way I wish it would.

Other than Sonic games I have started off my adventure in Dragon Quest VI. It is the last Dragon Quest games I have left to play until I can say I have played every game in the main series! =]

Lots to discuss in gaming. What are you playing these days?

Happy 15th Birthday NiGHTS!

I have many fond memories with NiGHTS into Dreams. Many of them involve spending the entire day playing and begging for just ten more minutes each time my parents harassed me about it. My Sega Saturn collection was short-lived, but one game I am happy I had the opportunity to enjoy was NiGHTS. The excellent soundtrack composed by Naofumi Hataya, Tomoko Sasaki, and Fumie Kumatani would go on to be one of my favorite soundtracks I would later add to my iTunes collection.

The thing that made NiGHTs so much fun was that it was a carefree game. You could dive right in and play. You didn’t need detailed instructions or have to worry too much about the storyline. It could all be inferred and that is one of the beautiful things about older games. Sega games, mostly arcade ports, never relied on a heavy storyline to be enjoyable and rewarding.

The controls were different than any game I played before. You could more or less fly around on a designated path. It invoked the feeling of a dream world where you can do things you wouldn’t expect to do in a game during that era. You could pick from two characters: Claris or Elliot and explore their dreams. They combine forces with Nights to save the dream world, Nightopia, from monsters.

NiGHTS was one of Sonic Team’s best games and it’s hard to believe that this game is now 15 years old! To celebrate the occasion, there is a new OverClocked Remix released for free today. Grab it at: http://lucid.ocremix.org/ In addition, fans of NiGHTS are campaigning for Sega to port NiGHTS. You can help their campaign by giving a free pledge at http://www.nid15.com/

I just dusted off my Sega Saturn. Time to play some NiGHTs.

Checkout the NiGHTS birthday buzz on Twitter: #NiGHTS15 and NiGHTS into Dreams

Follow me on Twitter: @CarlosPlays

EGM’s 100 Best Games Ever

[Blogger note: I originally posted this to an old game blog of mine that I am officially retiring. I thought this list was useful and I do want to play most of these games so I’m posting it here]

In EGM’a January 2002, Issue 150, an article is featured where the staff members rate the 100 best games ever, and some staff members faves didn’t make the cut.

From 100 down.

100. Decathlete (Saturn)
99. Wipeout XL (Playstation)
98. Quake III Arene (Dreamcast)
97. Mario Golf (Game Boy Color)
96. Phantasy Star (Master System)
95. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo Entertainment System)
94. Baseball Stars (Nintendo Entertainment System)
93. Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64)
92. Ice Hockey (Nintendo Entertainment System)
91. Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)
90. Resident Evil (PlayStation)
89. Dragon Warrior IV (Nintendo Entertainment System)
88. Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast)
87 Sega Rally 2 (Dreamcast)
86. ActRaiser (Super Nintendo)
85. F-Zero X (Nintendo 64)
84. Samurai Showdown II (Neo-Geo)
83. Daytona USA (Dreamcast)
82. Kirby’s Avalanche/Mean Bean Machine (Super Nintendo/Genesis)
81. Ape Escape (PlayStation)
80. Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)
79. Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
78. Star Fox (Super Nintendo)
77. Metal Gear Solid (Game Boy Color)
76. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)
75. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PlayStation)
74. Shining Force III (Saturn)
73. The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)
72. Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance)
71. Phantasy Star II (Genesis)
70. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (Nintendo Entertainment System)
69. Metroid (Nintendo Entertainment System)
68. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (Super Nintendo)
67. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (PlayStation/Dreamcast)
66. Donkey Kong (Game Boy)
65. Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64)
64. Mega Man II (Nintendo Entertainment System)
63. R-Type (R-Types Version) (PlayStation)
62. Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation)
61. Nights…Into Dreams (Saturn)
60. Super Mario RPG (Super Nintendo)
59. Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn)
58. Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
57. Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation)
56. Landstalker (Genesis)
55. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (Game Boy Color)
54. Devil’s Crush (TurboGrafx-16)
53. Super Punch-Out!! (Super Nintendo)
52. Herzog Zwei (Genesis)
51. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (Nintendo Entertainment System)
50. Guardian Heroes (Saturn)
49. Contra (Nintendo Entertainment System)
48. Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)
47. Panzer Dragoon II Zwei (Saturn)
46. Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal (Game Boy Color)
45. Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2
44. Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo)
43. Final Fantasy Tactics (PlayStation)
42. Contra III: The Alien Wars (Super Nintendo)
41. Ms. Pac-Man (Multiplatform)
40. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (Game Boy Color)
39. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (Game Boy Color)
38. R-Type Delta (PlayStation)
37. Resident Evil Code: Veronica X (PlayStation 2)
36. Chrono Cross (PlayStation)
35. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Game Boy Advance)
34. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (Nintendo Entertainment System)
33. Saturn Bomberman (Saturn)
32. NCAA Football 2002 (PlayStation 2)
31. Madden NFL 2002 (PlayStation 2)
30. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
29. Super Mario Bros. 2 (All-Stars Edition) (Super Nintendo)
28. Hot Shots Golf 2 (PlayStation)
27. Sonic CD (Sega CD)
26. Chrono Trigger (Super Nintendo)
25. The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo Entertainment System)
24. Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)
23. Gunstar Heroes (Genesis)
22. Super Mario Bros. (All-Stars Edition)
21. Dragon Force (Saturn)
20. Galaga (Multiplatform)
19. Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)
18. Pokemon Puzzle League (Nintendo 64)
17. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (PlayStation)
16. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Super Nintendo)
15. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PlayStation 2)
14. Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation)
13. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (Super Nintendo)
12. Final Fantasy V (FF Anthology Edition) (PlayStation)
11. Super Mario Bros. 3 (All-Stars Edition) (Super Nintendo)
10. Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)
9. Final Fantasy III (Super Nintendo)
8. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64)
6. Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)
5. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation)
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past (Super Nintendo)
2. Tetris (Multiplatform)
1. Super Metroid (Super Nintendo)